The Fall of Raf Simons at Calvin Klein

Ryan Roach, Editor, Fashion and Style

For the past two years, Calvin Klein has gone through a total transformation in the garments it has sent down the runways. This transformation is because of the appointment of Belgian designer, Raf Simons, as the new creative director. Under Raf Simons, Calvin Klein became a mixture of European technicality and precision. The quality of the garments and the creativity that Simons is known for really showed through.

Some of the biggest names in the industry critically acclaimed the collections produced under Simons’ short tenure. Simons introduced new European silhouettes and unique garments to an otherwise play-it by the book American brand. The steel-toed Chelsea boots will always signify Raf’s time at Calvin Klein. The whole feel of Calvin Klein was altered, and some may say, improved under Simons. However, reality set in and the business side of the fashion industry started to rear its head.

After the first few collections were sent to the market, Calvin Klein experienced a significant drop in sales. The usual customers of the brand did not react well to the price increase, the fabric changes, and the new design of Calvin Klein. In about two years, the brand experienced a $21 million drop in sales. Calvin Klein’s customer base was not expecting this sudden shift from commerciality to luxury, so when it happened, the customers stopped buying and ultimately the brand lost money. The problem is that before Raf, and to an extent during his time at Calvin Klein, most people outside of the fashion industry saw the brand as a high-end mainstream brand, not a high fashion brand like Fendi or Dior where consumers expect and are expected to pay large sums of money for pieces. Because no felt that Calvin Klein was up to par with high-end luxury brands, very few customers wanted to pay high-end luxury prices.


The situation got so bad that Emanuel Chirico, chairperson, and chief executive officer of PVH Corp., in November of 2018 stated that Calvin Klein and Raf Simons would be parting ways. Chirico said that Simons had turned Calvin Klein into something it was not and as a result, the brand was losing large sums of money at a rapid pace. Calvin Klein needed to quickly regain its footing with its core customer base, and Raf would not be able to lead the brand in the right direction. Even though Calvin Klein soared in its ingenuity and uniqueness under Raf Simons, it plummeted in its overall sales.